Monday, November 30, 2009

The Last Episode of Monk

Will be playing this Friday. It saddens me to think that this show will be over, as I think it's one of my favorite shows on television. Clever writing, good characters who you like (though I'm not terribly fond of Natalie's new boyfriend - I'd kind of hoped that she and Monk would end up together, though that was always a long shot), and stories that more often than not required a little thought to figure out.

Fortunately, I have several seasons on DVD and we also have Psych to keep us occupied, so while there will be a void, it won't be quite as big as it could have been.

Also available in Rome

At the Castel Sant'Angelo - Nutella Pizza. We did not partake.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

At Least One Republican Has the Guts to Tell it Straight

One GOP Senator has openly called for the Health Care Reform issue to be delayed. Senator Luger of Indiana has said that it's more important to figure out how to pay for Barack Obama's plans for Afghanistan and thus we should consider shelving health care reform.

For anyone who's been paying attention, it's clear that this has been one of the GOP's central plans with regard to health care from the beginning. After announcing over and over during the previous election cycle that health care was in "crisis," they decided to delay, bitch and moan. and shout vitriolic rhetoric over the past year to avoid giving any honest debate on the matter or allow health care reform to come to an up or down vote - the very same thing that they hoped the farce of a Supreme Court candidate Harriet Miers deserved (I agree that she deserved a vote, but truly believe that any serious politician would vote no on her candidacy, though given the number of Republicans in Senate at the time, that doesn't mean that she wouldn't have been approved). Not that Republicans would be hypocritical about something (and yes, I know Democrats are hypocrites as well - they're politicians - but there's something about the holier-than-thou approach to governing that Republicans took during the Bush administration that is in opposition to how they act in the minority.

Anyone looking for a serious political party to follow needs to look away from the GOP.

Sunday Afternoon

I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow. A week off was rather nice. I'd like it to continue, but I also like getting paid.

More on Rome

So, while we were on our trip to Naples and Pompeii, we were fortunate enough to find another couple, a husband and wife who work for the WHO in the Congo. Great couple, lots of fun and good conversations all around. This was the couple with whom we had dinner at Ristochicco twice (totally recommend, if you haven't figured that part out yet). Apparently, during one of these dinners, Jim and I got to discussing where to go on vacations for next time. They were planning on Greece, while I have been making tentative plans to try to take the kids to England in a couple years (good place for a first trip overseas inasmuch as they have English-speakers there).

Somehow during the course of dinner, Jim and I managed to agree that we would go to Spain next summer. Not just Spain, but Pamplona. To run with the bulls.

I still am not entirely sure how we came to this agreement, but I think it's already planned.

The spouse was nonplussed, apparently.

It's No Exaggeration

To say that there's plenty to see and do while in Rome. Fortunately, the city is very compact, and you can get to most of the sites with relative ease just by walking. We spent 2 full days in Rome and managed to get to most of the big sites without too much worry.

The Pantheon was the wife's favorite site. It's hard to disagree, as the building is just astounding. It's dome is as high as it is wide, and has been used for multiple religious activities over its existence.

I don't know that I could say what my favorite was, as there was just so much to see there. I did enjoy Hadrian's mausoleum/Castel Sant'Angelo (the castle is built around the mausoleum), as it offered a tremendous view of the city. We managed to get there after dark and saw the city as it was lit up for the evening. That said, the Colosseum and the Forum were both pretty amazing, as were the city walls. The artwork in the museums of the Vatican, including the Vexullum Regis (rumoured to have pieces of the Cross in it) were unbelievable. The detail found in the frescoes and sculptures were beyond what one might seem possible.

We didn't get to the Borghese Galleries, which is somewhat unfortunate, as I understand the artwork there is also tremendous. And we missed out on Trastevere, and most of Campo dei Fiori. But what we did see was pretty amazing. Piazza Navona was chock full of painters hawking their wares, some of it rather nice, but nothing we were going to spend money on. The fountains there were pretty interesting, though not as spectacular as Trevi Fountain. Another set of fountains that were really interesting were the Quattro Fontane, which we happened by on accident. The detail in these wall fountains were also somewhat spectacular.

It was a very interesting trip, and one that I hope to make again someday, perhaps with a little more time to move around and see things (and a little more cash, too).

All Right

I really need to start sleeping in past 4 a.m. This is rather annoying.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pray for President Obama

I would suggest that those who don't particularly care for President Obama should pray for his safety as well. Like him or not, just like President Bush was, he is our President. This is why it concerns me that the "Pray for Obama Psalm 109:8" T-shirts have been made and sold.

The verse by itself ("May his days be few; may another seize his position.") seems somewhat benign, but the intent behind it is anything but. The entire psalm can be found at this link, but for those who aren't much for clicking links, an extended portion of the prayer reads:

Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

I first heard about this prayer, known as an Imprecatory Prayer about 2 years ago. The context in which I first heard it was that it was being invoked by a Baptist Minister (a Reverend Drake) against Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). The reason was that he felt that AU was an enemy of God because AU "asked the IRS to probe the tax-exempt status of Drake's congregation. You see, generally, churches are tax-exempt, which carries with it the burden of not being able to campaign for political candidates. It turns out that Rev. Drake issued a statement endorsing Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate," (from my post linked above).

The problem then, as now, is that the concept of imprecatory prayer is being misapplied. The original intent for imprecatory prayers are to ask God to intervene against His enemies. There is no call in the prayer for enemies of individuals, and there's no evidence whatsoever that President Obama, himself a Christian, is an enemy of God.

While I can only speculate that the majority of people who would purchase this are members of the Religious Right, or the Right in general, it seems likely that these would be the individuals who came up with the idea of putting this clever little line on a t-shirt. This is interesting, because it wasn't too long ago that this group of individuals (the Right) had among their number people who openly called for sedition trials for those who opposed the President or his policies (see comments), or advocated sedition against the Democrats. I remember very clearly reading several comments on blogs that I followed where individuals were calling for sedition trials for anyone who opposed the Iraq war or other Bush policies. My question, then, is why would this type of act not be considered a form of sedition? Or do First Amendment rights only apply when it's a Republican or "Right" individual doing the talking? (FTR - I believe that the idea of protected speech is a good one, and don't advocate sedition charges, but think the hypocrisy is astounding.)

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of this is that this type of inflammatory rhetoric by itself might seem shrewdly humorous, but the concern for me is that, much like what happened with Dr. Tiller's murderer or Charles Guiteau, all it takes is one person to determine that it was his calling to carry out this action to really wreak havoc, and I think that this lack of foresight by the makers of these shirts is appalling (and if that's their plausibly deniable intent, then its downright evil and nothing my God would ever approve of).

Friday, November 27, 2009

When in Rome

Eat at Ristochicco. It's at Borgo Pio 186, between the Vatican and Castel Sant'Angelo. The place is outstanding, and a terrific value. It's quite easy to overspend while in Rome, particularly on the food, but this place will fill your belly with some of the best food I've ever tasted (the gnocchi was phenomenal) and fill your heart with some very engaging and kind service. This place was fantastic, and without question the best meals we had in Rome (we ate there twice, we enjoyed it so).

I would also suggest trying La Famiglia, near the Terminii on Via Gaeta. It's a good restaurant, though it seemed more of a tourist place to me. Still, their pasta was very good, in my opinion. I had a stuffed tortelini in a great cheese sauce. All things considered, quite good.

And while we were there, I found that I wasn't as hungry as I tend to get at home, though I was moving a whole lot more - we walked like it was going out of style. Plan on lots of hills when going to Rome, and streets that are not terribly smooth - they pave with basalt cobblestones called "sampietrini" by the locals - literally "Little stones of St. Peter." You'll be tired at the end of the day, but you'll have seen quite a bit.

The Day After Thanksgiving

I can now say that I'm no longer going to root for the Packers as long as their current head coach is the head coach. Challenging that play with just over 2 minutes left and a 20 point lead was bad form. You've got the win, there was no sense in that challenge but to try to pad your lead/stats.

I ate entirely too much last night. It's been a long time since I've overeaten like that, but it was Turkey day, and the wife makes an outstanding turkey, as my kids will agree.

I think exhaustion from the trip set in last night, as I fell asleep around 6:30-ish, and really didn't move after that. I feel a lot better this morning, though I've already been up a couple of hours.

All things considered, I've had a good week, and I think the kids really enjoyed spending the week with their grandparents.

I'll post a bit about Rome here shortly, but to satiate you a little, here's a picture of the Colosseum:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wine in Rome

I'm not a big fan of wine, generally speaking. I more or less stopped drinking several years ago, however, I do occasionally imbibe - a glass of beer from time to time. I can't exactly say why I never developed a taste for wine, but, I think it has something to do with the reds and whites that I drank. They always had a bitter taste with them that I couldn't get around.

While we were in Rome, though, I tried a few different house wines. Far and away, the best house wine that I found was called Villa Cervia. This was a house red that we had at the fantastic Ristorante Ristochicco, at Borgo Pio 186, just between the Vatican and Castle Sant'Angelo. This wine was quite smooth, with no bitterness that I could detect at all. It drank easily, and tasted terrific with our meals there. While I've looked on the website, it doesn't appear that we would be able to pick up a bottle here in Houston, though that would be nice. We do have one bottle that we brought home with us, and perhaps we'll use that to ring in the new year.

Random Trivia, Happy Thanksgiving Style

I first posted this on Thanksgiving in 2005.

Every year, Americans gather together with their families to celebrate the bounty of the year and to give thanks for all that we have on the Fourth Thursday in November with a huge Turkey and all the fixin's, a tradition that started in 1621 with the Pilgrims, Squanto, and the Wampanoag Indians, right? Well, not exactly. We'll look at some of the history of the holiday today.

First, it's true that there was a day of Thanksgiving in 1621, but, it doesn't look as though there was one in 1622. The harvest wasn't as good, there were many new settlers that needed housing and whatnot. The Pilgrims probably weren't in the best of moods for celebrating.

Second, The First Thanksgiving most likely wasn't in November. It was probably much closer to the harvest in September/October. Anyone who has spent any time in Massachussetts in November would tell you it's not exactly the best weather for celebrating.

Third, the Pilgrims didn't call themselves Pilgrims. They called themselves Saints.

Fourth, The letters and journals of the time indicate that Turkeys were not the big ticket item. The colonists came from England, where the lords greatly restricted hunting, and thus most people had never had venison before. In the states, where deer was plentiful, venison was very prominent at the first Thanksgiving.
- So where did Turkey come from? It appears as though it was a product of marketing in the late 1800s. Turkey was a much more profitable than other birds, so the lobbyists advertised immensely, showing pictures of a family gathering around a table with a big turkey in the middle. It caught on, and the picture printers (Think Currier and Ives) followed suit, with pictures of Pilgrims and a big Turkey.

So, if there was no second Thanksgiving, how the the 4th Thursday become the day? Well, Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, after the victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November. In 1864, after the victory at Antietam, they had another Day of Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday. In 1865, President Lincoln was shot and killed. President Johnson decided to follow the Thanksgiving tradition set up by President Lincoln, and it became the holiday it is now.

Everything is fine and dandy right? Not quite. You see, in the 1930s one year, There were five Thursdays in November. Since Thanksgiving had traditionally been the last Thursday, (usually there are only 4), this posed a problem. The lobbyists for the big department stores wanted Turkey Day to be the 4th Thursday, because it gave people more time for Christmas shopping. Traditionalists felt that this undermined the historical significance (unaware as to the actual history of the holiday), and pushed for it to be on the Last Thursday. There was some fallout from that, with some states going on the 4th Thursday, and some going on the last. Colorado had a Thanksgiving Week, and another state had 2 thankgsivings. Thankfully, Congress intervened, and passed a law in 1941 signed by President Roosevelt that established Thanksgiving as the 4th Thursday in November. And The Lions have been playing ever since.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

We just got back from Rome, and the trip was fantastic. I didn't eat nearly as much as I thought I would, though what we did eat generally was fantastic. The walking will get your legs in shape in no time, as there are hills all over (yes, I'm aware of the Seven Hills). I'll write more about the trip here shortly. Today I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On blogging

I'm losing my motivation lately. I miss the days of respectful disagreement with another's position. To my recollection, I've not targeted a private individual on a post, though I have been critical of some politicians and Sarah Palin. While more often than not my take on a topic has met with polite discourse, there have been enough ad hominem assaults to sour my taste for this. That I have less time than in days past to devote to a regular contribution of better-suported posts and my comments have been wanting of late,leads me to my thought that perhaps it's time for a break. I don't think I can quit altogether, but I feel the urge to submit my time as I had. We'll see what happens after my trip.

What do these religiously-motivated terrorist acts tell us?

What do these religiously-motivated terrorist acts tell us?

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

This is a day for Veterans. It's a day to honor and pay respects to those who have served, and are serving. It's not a day for politics, for politicians, for political speeches. It's not a day for divisiveness between parties, as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and many others serve and have served. It's not a day for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Hindus, Athiests, or Agnostics, as all of these religious beliefs (or disbelief) are represented among those who serve or have served.

Let today be filled with honor for those who have sworn to defend this country and our way of life. A day to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy because of the liberties these men and women have sacrificed, including, for far too many, trading their lives for ours.

To those with whom I served, those who served before me, and after me, to my Father, my Father-in-law, my brothers-in-law, my grandfathers, my great-grandfather, thank you for your sacrifice. Two days a year are but reminders - your service is appreciated every day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

11 Days

And then we'll be in Rome. I'll try to remember to take pictures. I know you'll want to see them.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

CLE is Done

I've finished my hours for the year. And I've gotten a pretty good start on next year's hours (I've done 2.5 and have another 3.5 paid for). I just need to sit through another 3.5 hours tomorrow and I'll be in pretty good shape.

Things like this give me the desire to do one of those CLE cruises in the Gulf - get out in the water and enjoy my mandatory hours.

My wife asked me what I want for our Anniversary. I'm taking her to Rome. I'm not sure what else I need/want.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Three kids and dad

At James Coney island. Good dinner. Wife working late. I'll be working tomorrow

Sunday, November 01, 2009


I prefer ihop to Denny's, but Cliff's is superior to both.

A Small Victory for Consumers

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an en banc hearing on Stormans v. Selecky, according to this article from Religion Clause Blogspot. This is the case ruling on whether or not a law passed requiring pharmacists to hand out prescribed medications regardless of whether it ran in controversion to their religious beliefs was kosher.

The Court basically denied an en banc rehearing, but did authorize a rehearing by the panel, which reached the same conclusion it did before (in a nutshell - the law is not unlawful, nor could any reasonable person believe it to be).

The allegedly aggrieved pharmacists' argument is that by forcing them to hand out prescriptions they disagree with (i.e. the morning after pill), then the State is forcing them to violate their religious principles. This, as I've mentioned before, is a load of crap. The state isn't forcing these pharmacists to do anything. Rather, the state is giving them a quid pro quo - you want the license to dispence phamaceuticals and make the copious amounts of money associated therewith, then you agree to obey the laws of the state and follow the requirements set out for you. If you don't want to do what the state (who dispenses the licenses) asks, then you don't have to do it, but you will not be able to dispense drugs.

Again, the state isn't forcing the pharmacists to do anything. They knew when they got involved in the pharmaceutical business what that business would entail (the Birth Control pill, condoms, and other prophylactic devices were available long before the current crop of pharmacists got their start), and they knew that their job included dispencing said items. Just because a new form of birth control doesn't jibe with what they decide is ok does not make it all right for them to ignore what is required of their job.

You don't like it, do something else. Period.